Lynne Klippelâ€™s question was direct. â€œHow have wearing other peopleâ€™s faces served you?â€ In my introverted, I-donâ€™t-like-sharing-my-inner-feelings way, I froze for a second. I know I do put on masks, but I wasnâ€™t sure I wanted to dissect the reasons. Particularly midlife masks. Sometimes mucking about in my inner-workings, my subconscious, is like realizing Iâ€™ve been living a hoarderâ€™s lifestyle. There are stacks of â€œstuffâ€ Iâ€™ve amassed over a lifetime. Stuff I intend to deal withâ€¦later. Much, much, later. Maybe.
Eventually, because I deeply adore and trust Lynne Klippel, my writing coach, I jotted down the followingâ€”
When confronted with uncomfortable situations I will often assume a face that I believe reflects the person I think I should be and not the true, probably scared, girl within.
As I stared at the inky words on paper, it occurred to me that Iâ€™m still hiding my voice/face. No matter how many times I listen to the beauty and wisdom of Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, how many times I resolve to speak my truth, how many times I believe Iâ€™m being honest, I still panic and reach for a social mask when Iâ€™m feeling anxious.
Just this past weekend my daughter and I discussed the difficulty of shedding constructs placed upon us in the formative years. I was raised to be seen but seldom heard. My brothers, touted as the smart ones,held sway in discussions. Mom somehow knew their IQ scores and wielded them as validation of her superior intellect. When I asked what my IQ score was, she just raised an eyebrow, shook her head, and told me to wash the dishes. That sort of dismissal leaves a mark whenÂ repeated in a myriad of subtle, and not-so-subtle, ways. Confidence? What confidence?
And so, when asked a question such as, â€œHow has wearing other peopleâ€™s faces served you?â€ I feel that moment of fear. That yucky moment of being outed, of being once again, â€œthe other.â€ It frustrates me that I am in midlife and still questioning my worth.
How about you? When do you wear a social mask, and how does it serve you? Do you feel you are in a time and place where your true self shines far brighter than cultural dictates? Please leave a comment and let me know. We can learn so much from each other.
Here is the poem, Now I Become Myself, by May Sarton that prompted the question about masks. Â (Thanks, Lynne!):
Now I Become Myselfâ€“ May Sarton
Now I become myself. It’s taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people’s faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
“Hurry, you will be dead before–”
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper
Is my hand; the shadow of a word
As thought shapes the shaper
Falls heavy on the page, is heard.
All fuses now, falls into place
From wish to action, word to silence,
My work, my love, my time, my face
Gathered into one intense
Gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
Fertile, detached, and always spent,
Falls but does not exhaust the root,
So all the poem is, can give,
Grows in me to become the song;
Made so and rooted so by love.
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!